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Mexico, Spain call for Venezuela crisis talks

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (R) and Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez gesture during a joint press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City on January 30, 2019
Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (R) and Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez gesture during a joint press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City on January 30, 2019 AFP
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Mexico City (AFP)

The leaders of Mexico and Spain called Wednesday for talks to resolve the crisis in Venezuela, but gaps were visible between them on what exactly that would look like.

Visiting Mexico City, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called for talks between Venezuela's rival leaders -- President Nicolas Maduro and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido -- that would lead to elections.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador meanwhile reiterated his appeal for dialogue between the Venezuelan government and opposition, but insisted there could be no preconditions.

Mexico and Spain, both key players in Latin America, have taken markedly different approaches to the Venezuelan crisis.

Sanchez said Saturday his government would join the United States and other countries in recognizing Guaido if elections were not called within eight days.

Lopez Obrador for his part has pointedly distanced Mexico from other Latin American powers that have recognized Guaido, saying his foreign policy is one of "non-intervention."

"We are in favor of dialogue, for reaching an agreement without the use of force. I think on that point (Mexico and Spain) agree," Lopez Obrador told a joint news conference.

However, he added, that dialogue must be "without conditions."

"We can't impose things. First the two sides have to sit down and talk. Instead of making recommendations, the best thing we can do is facilitate a dialogue... not withdraw recognition of one government or recognize another when that's not our role."

Sanchez said Spain, which is working to establish a "contact group" of countries to mediate the crisis, does not want to "impose or remove governments."

But he insisted that free, fair and transparent elections be a precondition for any talks.

Lopez Obrador did not directly answer a question on whether Mexico was willing to be part of the contact group Spain and several other European countries are proposing.

As the pair spoke, Uruguay -- whose stance on the crisis is similar to Mexico's -- announced that the two countries would convene an international conference of those with a "neutral stance" on Venezuela in Montevideo on February 7.

They did not say which countries would take part.

Lopez Obrador and Sanchez, both left-wing leaders, downplayed any tensions over Venezuela, but acknowledged the gap between them on how to respond to the crisis.

"The relationship between our two countries goes far beyond any crisis," Sanchez said, a statement echoed by Lopez Obrador.

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